Shark Week Unleashes Underwater Sensationalism: This Week’s TV Picks

By David Wharton | 6 years ago

It’s Shark Week once again on the Discovery Channel, that annual celebration of sensationalism and hyperbole when it comes to our favorite undersea predators. Discovery’s schedule for the week is full of such attention-grabbing, over-the-top titles as Lair of the Mega-Shark, Spawn of Jaws 2: The Birth, and Zombie Sharks. If you think that sounds more like the programming lineup of a Syfy Saturday night, well, you’re not alone. If you’re looking for thoughtful, intelligent examinations of the nature and biology of sharks, Shark Week probably isn’t the ideal destination. (For a variety of reasons.) Still, if you just want to watch high-definition video of sharks biting things, Discovery has got you sorted.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in scientific study of the oceans but the sight of Rob Lowe riding a pair of sharks like goddamn Aquaman makes you want to burn YouTube to the ground, Netflix has got some solid counter-programming coming this Friday. Netflix is premiering a new documentary called Mission Blue this week, which will provide a sobering look at the problems and challenges endangering our oceans, ranging from overfishing to increased acidification. Watching Shark Week’s all-caps carnival show might entertain the hard-core Jaws fanatics of the world, but watching Mission Blue will hammer home the fact that, however ideal a predator sharks might have evolved into, they ain’t got nothing on us when it comes to cutting a swath through the biosphere. Mission Blue will be available for Netflix subscribers beginning this Friday, August 15.


Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss (Discovery, 9/8c)

In Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss, shark researcher Paul Clerkin heads to the Indian Ocean to investigate the ocean’s darkest depths in search of shark species that scientists never even knew existed and get a glimpse of the last known group of bioluminescent sharks in the world.

Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) — “Twisted Trees”

The remaining artists become one with nature when creating fantastically twisted tree characters. Also: a superhero Foundation Challenge.

Lair of the Mega-Shark (Discovery, 10/9c)

Lair of the Mega Shark follows famed shark experts Jeff Kurr and Andy Casagrande head to New Zealand on a life-or-death mission to investigate the sightings of a 20-foot great white that resembles the legend of a giant great white shark Maoris call the ‘lord of the sharks.’ Jeff and Andy will risk everything to track down this Mega Shark believed to be lurking in the shadows of the New Zealand coast line.

The Wil Wheaton Project (Syfy, 10/9c) — “For Wil’s Eyes Only”

In the first-season finale, Wil looks at the box-office battle of Guardians of the Galaxy vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Extant (CBS, 10/9c) — “Nightmares”

Molly uncovers footage that may reveal the real reason the ISEA chose her for the solo mission. Meanwhile, Ethan experiences his first dream, an unforeseen advancement for which he was not programmed, and Julie distracts herself from work with a mysterious man she meets at the gym. Tessa Ferrer guest stars as Katie Sparks, Alan Sparks’ astronaut daughter.

How the Universe Works (Science, 9/8c) — “Extinction”

Examining universal calamities that have led to extinction, including asteroids, planet collisions, black holes, volcanoes and ice ages.

Man vs. the Universe (Science, 10/9c) — “Mining the Moon”

A look at space exploration. First up: Mineral riches on the moon are investigated.

Spawn of Jaws 2: The Birth (Discovery, 10/9c)

Dr. Michael Domeier has spent years scouring the Pacific Ocean hoping to solve one of the greatest mysteries of shark science: the location of great white pupping grounds. In 2013, he set the process in motion by successfully tagging a pregnant female shark that he called Gil Rakers. Now he’s returning to the sea in Spawn of Jaws 2: The Birth to follow her journey and be the first to capture the birth of a baby great white shark.

Zombie Sharks (Discovery, 9/8c)

Zombie Sharks explores tonic immobility, a catatonic zombie-like state that can be achieved in sharks. This shark phenomenon has been studied by scientists for years, but a recent spike in orca whale attacks on great white sharks suggests that orcas have now learned how to immobilize and prey on great whites. Professional diver Eli Martinez looks to prove this theory by being the first person to induce underwater tonic immobility in a massive great white shark.


Defiance (Syfy, 8/7c) — “Painted From Memory”

Nolan and Rafe race against the clock to rescue Amanda and Pottinger trapped in a deadly mine collapse.

I Escaped Jaws 2 (Discovery, 9/8c)

I Escaped Jaws 2 is a shark special featuring attack stories told from the perspective of the survivor. Using first person interviews and actual footage of the attacks, we take a look at why the attacks occurred and how the victims narrowly escaped with their lives.

Sharkageddon (Discovery, 10/9c)

Hawaii is thought of as an idyllic vacation destination, but recent spikes in shark attacks are turning these shores into a shark hot spot. Hawaiian native and surf legend Kala Alexander knows these waters better than anyone, and he hopes to uncover the reason behind this sudden shark invasion in Sharkageddon.


Megalodon: The New Evidence (Discovery, 10/9c)

In April 2013, a fishing vessel off the coast of South Africa was attacked, killing all on board. A TV crew documented Marine Biologist Collin Drake as he worked to determine the predator responsible. Megalodon: New Evidence presents SHARK WEEK viewers with shocking new evidence and interview footage.

Mission Blue (Netflix)

Oceanographer and eco-activist Sylvia Earle’s urgent mission to expose the dire condition of Earth’s oceans is captured in this documentary directed by Fisher Stevens, Academy Award-winning producer of The Cove, and Academy Award nominee Bob Nixon. Earle explains that the condition of our oceans, rapidly dying due to pollution, over-fishing, and acidification, is an ecological catastrophe soon to have a devastating impact on all life on Earth.


Doctor Who: The Ultimate Companion (BBC America, 9/8c)

The New Doctor lands next SATURDAY, AUG 23 — but get a head start with an all new special, DOCTOR WHO: THE ULTIMATE COMPANION, hosted by Fifth Doctor PETER DAVISON. Join Whovians past & present as they reveal what it takes to travel through all of time & space with the Doctor.

Great White Matrix (Discovery, 9/8c)

Great White Matrix features legendary shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder and cameraman Andy Casagrande on an expedition into the deadly shark infested waters of Australia. Their mission is to investigate a series of bizarre shark attacks in an area swarming with great white sharks. Paul and Andy explore what’s bringing these great whites so close to shore and what’s responsible for the surge in attacks in this area.

Outlander (Starz, 9/8c)

Claire is introduced to the Laird, but suspicions about her grow as she makes a friend of the mysterious Geillis Duncan and the clan discovers her skills at healing.

The Real History of Science Fiction (BBC America, 10/9c) — “Time”

What if we could travel not just through space, but through time itself? If you could travel through time, would you change the past or the future? What if you found it couldn’t be changed? What price does the time traveller — and the people they are closest to — pay? This is a journey from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine through ideas like The Grandfather Paradox and The Butterfly Effect to the professional time traveller that is the ever popular Doctor Who. Steven Moffat, David Tennant, Karen Gillan, and Neil Gaiman offer a unique perspective on the Doctor. Edward James Olmos reveals the hidden meaning of the language he created for the vision of the future that is Blade Runner. Bob Gale and Christopher Lloyd take us behind the scenes of Back to the Future, while Ed Solomon describes the joy of solving a time travel conundrum for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. But what would be the physical and emotional cost to the time traveller? Audrey Niffenegger explains what inspired her novel The Time Traveller’s Wife. And what if someone from the future tried to travel back in time to warn us? Would we believe them? From the apocalyptic tones of 12 Monkeys to the drama of Quantum Leap and the comedy of Groundhog Day, time travel is a subject that has been irresistible to the creators of every type of science fiction.

Sharksanity (Discovery, 10/9c)

Memorable moments from Shark Week 2014 are recalled.


Falling Skies (TNT, 10/9c) — “Till Death Do Us Part”

While members of the 2nd Mass attempt to dig out a shot-down Beamer, Tom and a small team follow the Volm to a supply cache in search of equipment to expedite the process. Along the way, they encounter a friend, and must decide whether or not to trust her. Back at camp, Maggie and Ben grow closer as he teaches her to hone her new skills, while Pope and Sara (guest star Mira Sorvino) continue to clash, resulting in a fight from which they may never recover.

The Last Ship (TNT, 9/8c) — “Trials”

Rachel and Chandler ask for six volunteers to participate in human trials of her vaccine, but the tests could be a living hell as the virus and the vaccine do battle inside their bodies. Meanwhile back in the States, Chandler’s wife and father are doing everything they can to keep their family alive.

The Leftovers (HBO, 10/9c) — “Cairo”

Kevin fears he’s losing touch with reality after inexplicably finding himself in a difficult situation involving Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), a leader of the Guilty Remnant. Meg (Liv Tyler) loses control during another encounter with Matt (Christopher Eccleston); Jill confronts Aimee (Emily Meade) about her relationship with Kevin; Nora stands up to Laurie (Amy Brenneman), and finds her privacy invaded.

The Lottery (Lifetime, 10/9c) — “Crystal City”

The President and First Lady announce the two hundred lottery finalists and prepare for the opening night reception. Meanwhile, Vanessa uncovers disturbing information connected to the kidnapping in China; Alison and James get closer to learning the truth about the fertility crisis; and Kyle and Tracy fight for custody of Elvis.

Manhattan (WGN, 10/9c) — “Last Reasoning of Kings”

The arrival of a high-profile guest shakes things up; Frank is haunted by his past.

Masters of Sex (Showtime, 10/9c) — “Blackbird”

Hendricks bans Masters from using black participants in his study, but Masters contacts a journalist to aid his efforts. Meanwhile, Johnson is forced to accept DePaul’s choice to end her chemotherapy treatments; Gene learns the truth about Betty and Helen’s relationship; and Libby fires Coral after discovering she lied about Robert being her lover.

The Strain (FX, 10/9c) — “Occultation”

After warning Kelly to leave the city with Zack ahead of the spreading plague, Eph is arrested by the FBI. Eichhorst has one final job for Gus, while Setrakian realizes that the coming eclipse is the tipping point for virus infection and the beginning of the end.

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